Saturday, June 13, 2009

Controversy #1

So I was saying....Greg Boyd was involved in two big controversies (that I know of)...and he didn't flinch even though there was a lot of backlash involved. 

The first was the open theism thing.  From what I can ascertain from reading online, the firestorm began because of a sentence in Boyd's 1994 book, "Letters From a Skeptic"  The following is from an article in Christianity Today - Feb 2001.  It is in the archives...and looks like an archive, with many of the links going to those annoying "page not found" error messages. 

Open theism, the idea that God does not fully know the future because humans have not yet made the choices that will affect it, has been called everything from "an enlightening new paradigm" to "merely an extreme form of Arminianism" to "heresy." Open theism did not originate in--and is not limited to--the BGC (the Southern Baptist Convention, for instance, added an anti-open theism clause to its Faith and Message at its June 2000 meeting). But so far it has created more turmoil in the BGC than in any other Christian body.
The leading proponent of open theism in the BGC, Gregory Boyd, teaches at Bethel and pastors Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, one of the five largest churches in the conference. Last June, he found himself fighting for his theology--and his job--as his denomination debated whether it could be open to openness.

Though Boyd had long espoused openness views, these views invited relatively little debate until five years ago, when BGC pastors started asking about this sentence in Boyd's 1994 book Letters from a Skeptic: "God can't foreknow the good or bad decisions of the people he creates until he creates these people, and they, in turn, create their decisions."

The complaints increased in volume and frequency until, in 1996, Bethel formed an internal committee to evaluate this position and its effect, if any, on Boyd's employment status. The committee found Boyd's views "within the bounds of evangelical Christian orthodoxy and compatible with the theological commitments expected of faculty members at Bethel." Boyd thus retained his teaching post.

But the battle was just beginning. BGC proponents of classical theism, led largely by John Piper, senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, were dismayed by this decision. Groups formed with such names as the Edgren Fellowship (named after Bethel's founder) and Concerned Pastors. Primarily through open letters and print publications, they took their concerns to the conference as a whole, arguing that the denomination's Affirmation of Faith be changed to unquestionably exclude open theism.

As the debate heated up, leaders at Bethel and the BGC discussed ways to maximize the information and minimize the misinformation disseminated to conference members. Out of these meetings, the Foreknowledge Web site was born.

The article goes on to talk about how this Foreknowledge Web site epitomized what we've all witnessed on internet forums...a sort of free for all of argumentative opinions, angry posts, disrespect....and discord.  Another similar situation comes to mind....the UR debates between Gary Amarult and other UR believers and Matt Slick.  It became so heated that Matt Slick banned all discussions of Universalism from the message board on his site....CARM.  He said that universalists were too nasty and meanspirited to debate (the pot calling the kettle black there for sure) and because of that, he banned that as a discussion topic. 

That was the main topic of the Christianity Today article....using the internet for discussions. Pros and cons. It just so happened that this open theism debate was used as THE example.  Probably in part because it involved well known pastors (Boyd and Piper) and large organizations such at the Southern Baptist Convention and the Evangelical Theological Society.

I should add that the Foreknowledge web site is no longer in least not anywhere I looked.  I would like to check it out simply for the curiosity factor.

So that is a bit about the open theism controversy that caused quite a bit of commotion for all involved.   More tomorrow on another biggie spurred on by Boyd's book, "The Myth of a Christian Nation"

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